Videoconference enhances international election discussion

Tuesday, December 4, 2007 | 7:33 p.m. CST; updated 4:04 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — After carefully selecting seats in front of a small camera, American journalists waved to professors in Warsaw, Poland, Buenos Aires, Brazil and Moscow.

About 10 professors and students gathered Tuesday morning at MU to listen to a videoconference about how the election system works in different countries and how the media covers the events.


For more information about the election results in Russia, Poland or Argentina, go to Other election stories: Russian elections Argentina elections Poland elections

Russian professor Yassen Zassoursky described the discussion as “the beginning of our transatlantic, transcontinental communication.”

The discussion focused on elections in Poland, Russia and Argentina, as well as the upcoming elections in the U.S.

MU freshman Brandon Twichell found out about the event from an e-mail sent to all MU students. He has been to several open forums before and wanted to hear about the election process, especially in Russia.

Wayne Wanta, executive director of the Center for the Digital Globe, said he wanted to organize the event so students can get experience talking with people in other countries.

“It’s just amazing,” he said. “Not long ago, I do not know if I could find those cities on a map, and now we are interacting and sharing.”

The Center for the Digital Globe is a multi-disciplinary, collaborative center with faculty fellows from 12 different units on campus, including textile apparel management, engineering and geography.

The discussion featured all four participants projected onto a screen with live steaming audio. Participants spoke one at a time, and attendees could ask questions about each countries’ election process.

While Wanta has only used the videoconference technology for one other discussion with international participants, he said it went smoothly with the exception of a few glitches, including an external microphone working better than the one included in his computer. He said MU could use the technology to connect to scholars and journalists abroad every day in classrooms.

Bill Allen, coordinator of the agricultural journalism program, has used videoconferences to connect with others in the U.S. He thinks the discussion was “unifying” and hopes the technology can also be used to discuss agricultural and environmental issues.

“You come to expect these things when you see them on TV networks,” Allen said. “It is amazing to see the technology work in a low-budget public university setting.”

Other videoconferencing events will be scheduled for later this school year, Wanta said. He is working on a study of how media influences elections with the three participants and hopes to have another talk following the Russian presidential elections in March.

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